Christian Apologetics Study

THE ORIGINS OF INTELLIGENT DESIGN THEORY

Dec
19

Today an increasing number of science researchers are rejecting Darwinism and evolutionism for the scientific theory of intelligent design because they are convinced that intelligent design offers a better and more scientific explanation than classic Darwinism. The intelligent design theory argues that all living organisms were created and designed by an “intelligent designer.” This narrative highlights the theory’s definition, history, and key persons. In this piece, we discuss the theory’s irreducible complexity and specified complexity arguments.

THE REAL MEANING OF INTELLIGENT DESIGN

“The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.” Intelligent design is not scientific creationism because creationism begins with the Holy Scriptures and make scientific conclusion based on the Holy Bible, while intelligent design is based upon the weight of scientific evidence.

Biblical creation science argues that there was a sudden creation of the universe, where space, time, energy, and matter originated from God’s supernatural creative power (Genesis 1:1). Later, God created all living systems on Earth (Genesis chapters 1 and 2).  Mutations and natural selection lack ability to develop all living kinds from single organism.  Changes within the originally created plant and animal kinds occur only within fixed genetic limitations.  There is a separate ancestry for humans and apes. Earth’s geology can be explained by catastrophism, primarily by the occurrence of a worldwide flood.  Earth and living kinds had a relatively recent beginning (6000 or 7,000 years past).

Meanwhile, intelligent design argues that specified complexity and irreducible complexity are reliable indications of design. Biological systems exhibit specified complexity and use irreducibly complex subsystems. Naturalistic mechanisms or undirected causes do not suffice to explain origin of complexity. Intelligent design constitutes the best explanation for the origin of specified complexity and irreducible complexity in biological systems.

Intelligent design theorists believe that evidence for design has been observed in cosmology, physics, biology, and molecular biology.  In cosmology, evidence suggests the universe–including all matter, space, time, and energy–came suddenly into existence a finite time ago, contradicting the earlier picture of an eternal and self-existing material cosmos. In physics, evidence has shown that the universe is “finely-tuned” for the existence of life, suggesting the work, as Astrophysicist Fred Hoyle puts it, “of a super-intellect.” In biology, the presence of complex and functionally integrated machines has cast doubt on Darwinian mechanisms of self-assembly. In molecular biology, the presence of information encoded along the DNA molecule has suggested the activity of a prior designing intelligence.

THE PIONEERS OF  INTELLIGENT DESIGN

In Europe, intelligent design theory began with the Greek philosophers a few centuries before Christ and some early church fathers in 3rd and 4th centuries after Christ and Rev. William Paley’s natural theology in the early 19th century. Paley argued that a watch is the product of an intelligent watchmaker and not the result of undirected natural processes. Organisms are the product of intelligence. Purposeful design originates from a purposeful designer. An important sign of design is complexity. Paley wrote: “In crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone and were asked how the stone came to be there, I might possibly answer that for anything I knew to the contrary it had lain there forever; nor would it, perhaps, be very easy to show the absurdity of this answer. But suppose I had found a watch upon the ground, and it should be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place, I should hardly think of the answer which I had before given, that for anything I knew the watch might have always been there.  Yet why should not this answer serve for the watch as well as for the stone?  For this reason, and none other, viz., that when we come to inspect the watch, we perceive what we could not discover in the stone, that its several parts were put together for a purpose.”

THE MODERN INTELLIGENT DESIGN THEORISTS

Modern intelligent design theory began with the work of Charles Thaxton, Walter Bradley, Michael Denton, Dean Kenyon, and Phillip Johnson. They believe that scientifically, Darwinism is an inadequate framework for biology and philosophically, Darwinism is hopelessly entangled with naturalism. Later, Michael Behe, William Dembski, Stephen Meyer, Paul Nelson, and Jonathan Wells proposed positive research program wherein intelligent causes become key for understanding the diversity and complexity of life. This collection of philosophers, physicists, astronomers, chemists, biologists, and linguists critiqued Darwinism and promoted the intelligent design theory in the early 1990s.  And Johnson’s Influence leads to 1996 Conference. This conference at Biola University brought scholars from around the world. The world learns of the Discovery Institute’s Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture (CRSC).

When Lehigh University biochemistry professor, Dr. Michael Behe’s 1996 book was reviewed in mainline science journals, Darwinists argued against his scientific conclusions, but they were unable to disprove his facts. Dr. Behe introduced the concept of irreducible complexity in his book, Darwin’s Black Box. Something is irreducibly complex if it is composed of two or more necessary parts. Remove one part and the function is not just impaired but destroyed.

According to Dr. Behe, a mousetrap is irreducibly complex. “An everyday example of an irreducibly complex system is the humble mousetrap. It consists of (1) a flat wooden platform or base; (2) a metal hammer, which crushes the mouse; (3) a spring with extended ends to power the hammer; (4) a catch that releases the spring; and (5) a metal bar that connects to the catch and holds the hammer back. You can’t catch a mouse with just a platform, then add a spring and catch a few more mice, then add a holding bar and catch a few more. All the pieces have to be in place before you catch any mice. By irreducibly complex I mean a single system composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning An irreducibly complex system cannot be produced directly by slight, successive modifications of a precursor system, because any precursor to an irreducibly complex system that is missing a part is by definition nonfunctional”

Later, Dr. William Dembski publishes The Design Inference in 1999 with the prestigious Cambridge University Press. Dr. Dembski has earned doctorates in philosophy and mathematics from Princeton. Johnson, Behe, Dembski, and others are published widely, exposing the naturalistic bias of science and media, while Darwinists continue to repeat their tired, predictable science vs. religion arguments. Dr. Dembski’s work supported the theory that living organisms are too complicated to be the result of natural processes working independently. Based largely on the theories underlying information theory and concerned with measuring the complexity of structures and information contained in structures. Dr. Dembski’s theory developed the specified complexity argument.

Specified complexity is an information science and mathematical argument proposed by Dr. Dembski and employed by other intelligent design theorists to promote intelligent design. According to Dembski, the concept is intended to formalize a property that singles out patterns that are both specified and complex. Dembski. Dembski believes that specified complexity is a reliable marker of design by an intelligent agent, a central tenet to intelligent design which he argues for in opposition to the modern evolutionary theory. The concept of specified complexity is mathematically sound and has been the basis for further independent work in information theory, the theory of complex systems, or biology. Specified complexity is one of the two main arguments used by intelligent design science researchers, the other being irreducible complexity.

In Dembski’s terminology, a specified pattern is one that admits short descriptions, whereas a complex pattern is one that is unlikely to occur by random chance processes. Dembski argues that it is impossible for specified complexity to exist in patterns displayed by configurations formed by unguided processes. Dembski argues that because specified complex patterns can be found in living things, this evidence indicates some kind of guidance in their formation, which is indicative of intelligence. Dembski further argues that one can rigorously show by applying no free lunch theorems the inability of Dawinian algorithms to select or generate configurations of high specified complexity.

ANALYSIS OF THE INTELLIGENT DESIGN THEORY

Paley’s classic design argument was only from a metaphysical notion for planned perfection, rather than a mathematical specified complexity form. His arguments for design lack the modern day design theorists’ rigor and precision and it had theological associations with classic Christian theism. While this argument is good for a metaphysical proposal, as a technical proposition it failed to withstand Darwin’s scientific mechanism for natural law and random chance. Paley’s arguments failed to dethrone Darwin’s analysis for biological “imperfection,” Darwin’s arguments for “dysteleology,” and the Darwinian mechanism explaining how evolution generated living systems with design appearance.

In the 21st century, we are having a completely different discussion. Intelligent design theory seeks to discovery complex objects that are specified to some pattern. This is the design arguments essence, and we can best detect design when we can exclude some rival hypothesis, resembling Darwinian evolution. Darwinism no longer triumphs over modern design arguments. Darwin

ism fails to explain the evolution of irreducible complex biological systems naturally and this fact represents the collapse of Darwinism temporary triumph over Paley, and the modern intelligent design argument. While Hume argued that there is insufficient analogy between biological design and human design, his outdated objection cannot withstand Behe and Dembski’s rigorous observations and quantifications for the information produced by an intelligent agent.

RELATED SOURCES

The Mystery of Life’s Origin, Charles Thaxton in 1984. A Theory in Crisis, Michael Denton in 1986. Darwin on Trial, Phillip Johnson in 1991. Creation Hypothesis, Dean Kenyon in 1994. Reason in the Balance, Phillip Johnson in 1995. Darwin’s Black Box, Michael Behe in 1996. The Design Inference, William Dembski in 1999. Icons of Evolution, Jonathan Wells in 2000. The Design Revolution, William Dembski in 2004.

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